Devi Sridhar: Expert or Charlatan?

Going back to a time with no SARS-CoV-2 is something I’m sure we’d all support, if it were achievable. But eliminating or eradicating an airborne virus, even to the non-epidemiological experts amongst us, was always going to be an impossible task. Especially when it had already taken hold in towns and cities throughout the world. But that didn’t stop a small, yet quite vocal, group of self-styled experts to seek to do the impossible and to eradicate the virus completely. A radical ideology that would become known as “Zero-COVID”.

Those of us that called out the lunacy of such an ideology have now been vindicated as Australia and New Zealand, the poster-countries for the Zero-COVID’ers, are imploding under authoritarian rule and military enforced mandates. One such vocal and prominent supporter of this radical and extremist ideology was Devi Sridhar. I write in the past-tense as even she has now abandoned the idea but not before attempting to dilute her past support for the dangerous ideology.

Terms such as “extremist” are often used to describe the Zero-COVID path that Sridhar et al. wish[ed] for us to pursue, due to what it would entail to even attempt to achieve. Whilst there certainly is an argument that small populated and isolated islands like New Zealand could and should at least try to achieve it in the short-term, how would the likes of Scotland try to achieve it without England also adopting it as a strategy? How could Scotland and England achieve it without Wales coming onboard too? Would Devi close the borders for Northern Ireland? No, she also wanted them to aim for Zero-COVID. For that to work would require the Republic of Ireland to join in. How are land borders completely locked down? Has it ever been done?

Let’s say they all did just that, and say they all closed their borders to every other country. What about the lorry drivers bringing food and goods across the channel from Europe? How long would we have to remain isolated from the outside world? Who decides if and when this path fails? How long would we have had to stay locked down to get cases ‘into the single digits’ as required by Devi and friends? What about the health costs of prolonged lockdowns? The lockdowns we went through were long and hard and the costs of which will be felt for years to come. To obtain complete elimination of a global virus would have required longer, harder lockdowns with even more intrusions on our rights and freedoms, and all this with a very small to nil chance of success anyway. And all to what end when Australia and New Zealand are still in and out of lockdowns? Only recently has Australia been able to arrest their massive spike in cases, whilst New Zealand’s are still headed North at a rapid rate.

Devi Sridhar vs The Truth

Devi Sridhar is a Professor at the University of Edinburgh “where she holds a Personal Chair in Global Public Health“.

Thanks to COVID-19, she has become somewhat of a household name in the UK. Whilst having no expertise or qualifications in virology, immunology, epidemiology or pharmacology, that hasn’t stopped the corporate media rolling her out as an expert witness on all things COVID-19, almost daily. Yet, Devi does not hold so much as a medical degree.

However, her lack of qualifications haven’t stopped her offering advice on such sensitive areas as childhood vaccination.

Recently she was invited onto the BBC Newsround TV programme, which is focused on school children, where she incorrectly stated that vaccines are 100% safe for children. The BBC were soon inundated with complaints to the extent they had to pull the segment from their website and issue a retraction.

So far the trials have shown the vaccines are 100% safe for children.

Devi Sridhar in a now deleted and retracted BBC interview. June 2021

The BBC quickly, but very quietly, pulled the segment and issued this low-key retraction without mentioning Sridhar by name!

Correction: This article has been amended to remove a reference by a contributor that the Pfizer vaccine is “100% safe”.

Devi has never apologised for pushing this dangerous disinformation on children. Nor has she ever acknowledged that the BBC had to remove her claim and issue their own retraction.

She just brushed it under the carpet and moved on. Those of us who have challenged BBC reporting know how difficult it is to have them retract anything. The fact they retracted this and in record time speaks to the seriousness of the matter.

It wouldn’t take Devi long to go back on TV and again propagate mistruths and lies. On the 28th June on Good Morning Britain Devi would be rolled out to help promote vaccinations in 12-15 year-olds. The HART Group (Health Advisory & Recovery Team) produced a great video going through the claims made by Devi and pointing out just how wrong she was. Please take a few minutes and watch it here.

Devi and Zero-COVID

Sridhar was asked in August about her support for Zero-COVID “as a long term strategy” and was invited to admit she “got that one wrong”.

She responded by claiming that she was only advocating zero-COVID to “buy time for science & more data” and she points to a Guardian column she authored in April 2020.

In the column, Devi does not mention Zero-COVID because in April 2020 this term had yet to be used regarding COVID-19. Rather, her first time tweeting about “zero-COVID” was on the 26th June 2020.

In the aforementioned Guardian column, she offered up 3 possible scenarios on how the UK could deal with COVID, one of which was the following,

The first scenario: if we have an effective, safe and available vaccine or antiviral in the next 18 months, the countries that minimised loss of life with the least harsh economic restrictions will be in the best position. Australia, New Zealand and numerous east Asian countries have the outbreak under control and can in the short term manage the trickle of cases while waiting for the scientific solution.

She refers to Australia and New Zealand who adopted what we now know to be a disastrous Zero-COVID policy, but, again, at the time she wrote her article the term “Zero-COVD” had not been used by either country. In fact, it seems that it wasn’t used to around early June 2020. And that stacks up with Devi’s first “Zero-Covid” tweet of 26th June 2020. Further evidence of the term “Zero-COVID” not having been used until June 2020 is its adoption by Carole Cadwalladr’s politically motivated “Independent” SAGE at that time.

As Laurie Clarke recently wrote in the British Medical Journal,

iSAGE hardened its policy agenda in June 2020 when it became a supporter of zero covid, the approach followed by countries such as China and New Zealand.

Evidence that Cadwalladr’s pressure group were and are extremely politically motivated is also confirmed in the same article on the BMJ.

“The whole covid response has been very political, and science has had to become political.”

Deenan Pillay, Chair of Cadwalladr’s iSAGE project

What she was referring to in her opinion piece in the Guardian was the likes of New Zealand’s complete isolation from the outside world in an attempt to eliminate the virus. Indeed, just a few months ago, whilst still chasing the Zero-COVID rainbow, Aukland went into lockdown over a single positive PCR test. Australia has suffered the same fate and even with the vaccines both countries are still implementing harsh military enforced lockdowns. So much for “waiting for the scientific solution“.

Since her article in the Guardian of April 2020, Sridhar has pushed overtly, and loudly, for a “Zero-COVID” strategy and hasn’t minced her words in the process.

In July 2020 she would call for a “push for a Zero COVID Britain”. No mention of vaccines or this strategy being about ‘buying time’.

A few weeks later, she would tweet, “Fastest way back to normal life is pursuing a ‘Zero COVID’ approach domestically.”

A few days later still, she would tweet that she wants New Zealand’s strict zero-COVID strategy “for every country in the world.”

In August of 2020 she goes a little further and explains what she means about a “Zero COVID strategy”.

Again, not a hint of suggestion that this strategy was a temporary measure until the arrival of vaccinations. In fact, Devi’s idea of what her Zero-COVID strategy would look like doesn’t allow for things to return to normal upon vaccination but rather only upon complete elimination can normal life resume.

In December 2020, even with the introduction of the vaccines, she talks of ‘clearing the virus domestically’ and then ‘building travel bubbles with other zero COVID countries’. Again, no mention of holding patterns awaiting the arrival of vaccines, even though they had already landed at that stage.

In this December tweet, she is clearly laying out a long-term plan to reopen international travel. Zero-COVID was a strategy in and of itself that she sought to see implemented by all governments.

In the above tweet, she explains how she tried to push her Zero-COVID strategy with “No.10”

If those tweets aren’t convincing enough, then listen to her in her own words as she addresses a Health Committee meeting in Northern Ireland on the 3rd December 2020.

Am, I think what I would have liked to see is a 4 nation agreement on an elimination strategy.

A Zero-COVID strategy is the best way in my view, having looked at this for 10 months.

So even if we take Sridhar’s August 2021 claim that in April 2020 she was advocating for a Zero-COVID approach until vaccines arrived, the above video is from 8 months after the April article, December 2020, when she categorically calls for a Zero-COVID strategy even going as a far as to say that her decision was based upon ‘looking at this (the data) for 10 months‘ and recall in December 2020 the vaccines had already arrived!

Devi’s Definition of Zero-COVID

Devi gets a lot of things wrong and when called out she either quietly deletes her tweets, blocks those challenging her or simply changes the definition of words to suit her changing positions.

One such example of this ‘definition-changing’ is her ever-changing position on what “Zero-COVID” actually means.

In a May 2021 article for the Guardian, Sridhar would write that as vaccines had become available, there was no longer any need for a “Zero-COVID” approach,

Before the arrival of vaccines, the most effective of these strategies was the elimination, or “zero Covid”, approach taken by countries such as New Zealand, Taiwan and China. But the tools we have at our disposal have changed radically in the past 15 months. We now have safe and effective vaccines, treatments and mass testing, which permit governments to rethink their initial strategies and form a more sustainable plan for the future.

Surely, then, one could refer to her April 2020 column in the same paper (discussed above) to support this position, that she only supported the disastrous Zero-COVID approach as a ‘holding pattern’ until vaccines arrived, right?

Not really because just a few short weeks later, in a now deleted tweet, Sridhar would write that her Zero-COVID approach included the use of vaccines! She also openly displayed her support for restrictions, which whilst many suspected that she supported such measures all along, this now confirmed those suspicions.

It’s easy to understand why she deleted this tweet. Calling for restrictions, targetted or otherwise, was a sign that Devi had gone off-script, and then stating that her Zero-COVID path included the use of vaccines, was proof she’d gone off-script. This tweet was rapidly deleted, but not before I saved it.

So, in May 2021, she wrote that now the vaccines had arrived we no longer needed to pursue a Zero-COVID strategy, the following month she writes that we should pursue a Zero-COVID strategy using testing, restrictions and vaccines. In one tweet, she had contradicted her claims that she only wanted Zero-COVID until vaccines arrived, thus rubbishing her August 2021 explanation. This is why she had to delete it.

But this wasn’t the only time that Devi wrote that her Zero-COVID strategy involved the use of vaccines. In a February 2021 tweet, she writes, “Zero Covid is misunderstoodit’s about zero tolerance for COVID-19, and using a vaccine & public health strategies to stop transmission of COVID…” (emphasis added)

Devi and Extremist “Independent” Sage

She has been called a ‘loony conspiracy theorist‘, “a mad cat woman” and a ‘liar‘ and it has also been alleged she has links to British Intelligence. Whatever one’s views of Carole Cadwalladr are, it came as a surprise to many to learn she had dipped her toe into the world of academia and science when she organised and funded a small cabal of fringe scientists and academics under the name of “Independent” Sage. This small group consists of people who all share the same extremist and dangerous desire to pursue a Zero-COVID strategy.

It was then no surprise that this group would flirt with Sridhar and her with them, given their shared desire to reach this “Zero-COVID” goal.

iSage and Sridhar would develop somewhat of a Twitter love affair for a period, with compliments flying in both directions. In this July 2020 tweet, Sridhar is humbled by Gabriel Scally’s approval of her work.

This was after Sridhar had herself approved of iSage’s work and their “strategic objective of achieving a Zero COVID UK“,

In August 2020, Sridhar urges her followers to follow iSage in particular Susan Michie, a lifelong member of the Communist Party.

Michie supported China’s brutal response to the COVID pandemic. A response that lead to people being welded into their homes.

iSage is also home to Chris Pagel, a mathematician who was shown misrepresenting government data to support her claims that schools were a vector for COVID-19 spread into the community.

Devi and Other Dangerous Claims

Zero-COVID was and is an extremely dangerous strategy to try and achieve, given that it’s an airborne virus, and so it therefore attracted an extremist cult-like following of fanatics. In the few countries that attempted to achieve this failed strategy, they would require the use of their military to enforce harsh and brutal lockdowns.

The issue with Devi Sridhar is clear for many to see, she is being asked to comment and offer advice on complex areas in which she has no training or expertise. This has lead to such dangerous blunders as telling kids that the vaccines are “100% safe” and supporting a Zero-COVID strategy which she changed the definition of, depending on its apparent successes and failures and what day of the week it was. She also made a stupendous error when she claimed that the AstraZeneca vaccine didn’t protect against the South African variant. An error that would have put paid to many a career during a global pandemic.

Needless to say that Devi deleted this tweet too and again didn’t issue a retraction or apology.

So whilst Devi doesn’t issue retractions or apologies on COVID-19, you wouldn’t realise that unless you went looking, as publicly she advises that she admires those who admit when they get things wrong.

In a January 2021 tweet, Sridhar would again promote the Zero-COVID approach of Australia as a success by pointing to an outdoor tennis tournament in Adelaide saying, this is “What a Zero COVID approach means.”

However, not alone was this event outdoors, it also occurred during Adelaide’s summer. When Sridhar sent that tweet out, in the UK we were four weeks into our winter.

It’s easy in this instance to believe that she was being deliberately misleading, but as we’ve shown in this report, due to Devi’s lack of qualifications in the areas she offers opinions on, there are huge gaps in her knowledge that she replaces with ignorance. This is why she has had to delete so many tweets, and why even the BBC were forced to retract some of her claims.

In a reversal of fortunes, come our summer when we were pretty much returning to normal, Adelaide hit its winter and guess what happened? On the 21st July South Australia would be forced back into another lockdown. So it wasn’t “Zero-COVID” that enabled outdoor tennis. It was seasonality.

Selection of Devi’s Deleted Tweets

Brand Sridhar

Devi Sridhar is arguably an opportunist and someone who is well-oiled when it comes to knowing how to use the power of social media to build her brand.

With a book deal secured, detailing her non-qualified advice on how COVID spread was “Preventable”…

And a radio show pending…

Plus, with countless interviews across global corporate media outlets, it soon becomes clear that COVID and brand Sridhar have been doing just fine financially. Whilst Devi sits at home on Zoom calling for Zero-COVID, lockdowns and school closures her mail was still being delivered by low paid postal workers and her food was still being packed on the shelves of grocery stores by low paid workers. Her broadband and electricity were still being provided and serviced by working-class people who were all placing themselves in harm’s way to keep Devi comfortable and earning at home, on Zoom, calling for more restrictions.

In the US, they have [lockdowns] — at best — protected the ‘non-essential’ class from COVID, while exposing the essential working class to the disease. The lockdowns are trickle down epidemiology.

Professor Jay Bhattacharya

Her salary and pay cheques kept flowing from the Scottish government and presumably from just about every corporate media outlet. This is what hypocrisy looks like. This is what Zero-COVID looks like. This is why this professional ‘Zoom class’ of people want restrictions to last for as long as possible. Covid gave them relevance in the public sphere, and that relevance can only remain for as long as Covid remains.

When it all goes wrong…

distance yourself from everything you’ve done to help it get so wrong and throw a Twitter pity party.

Whilst claiming you didn’t really support Zero-COVID as a long-term strategy at all, when you did just that and even tried to cover your tracks by deleting your tweets.

As stated elsewhere in this study, Devi doesn’t apologise for her disastrous mistakes and advice on COVID-19. She doesn’t even retract them. She simply ignores them or deletes all traces she’d ever even said such things. Furthermore, she does all this whilst claiming to admire people who own up to their mistakes. Arguably, the majority of Devi’s bad advice comes from a place of ignorance and lack of expertise. A young woman thrust into a global media limelight and who wishes to remain there but can only do so for as long as the fear remains and for as long as she claims to hold expert knowledge in how to resolve the cause of that fear. When she is eventually shown to be wrong so many times that it cannot be dodged any longer, she disavows her previous claims of expertise and seeks refuge behind ‘just being an academic trying to explain things’.

You can decide whether Devi Sridhar is a person to be trusted and whether governments should be listening to her advice. The evidence presented in this study shows a Devi Sridhar that the corporate media, and she would rather not be made known. But that is where we come in.